3.2 billion. That is the number of unique mobile subscribers that Asia Pacific is projected to have by 2025, which accounts for more than half of the world’s mobile subscribers.
Mobile data traffic is predicted to grow at a 40 to 50 percent rate annually, and Internet of Things (IoT) connections from 25 to 30 percent. As technology adoption increases, more service providers require 5G to support the surge of incoming data.
With mobile network operators in the APAC region already planning to launch 5G by 2020, competition is quickly encroaching onto telcos’ traditional streams of revenues, specifically voice and messaging services, as well as multimedia and video streaming services.
Apart from making calls and sending texts, consumers today are also running apps on their mobile phones to watch videos, post photos to their social media accounts, or play games.
Changing consumer behaviours and trends are forcing telcos to cater to consumer needs with better data management and analytics, all while keeping a foot in the competition. This puts immense pressure on telcos’ networks to cope with spikes and the larger bandwidth required by data-intensive apps.
A bright and clear future for telcos
Despite the challenges posed by changing market and customer demands, the future of telcos is far from bleak. Sitting on a goldmine of information, telcos are in a good position to harness data for actionable insights that can improve operations and seize new revenue opportunities.
The age of artificial intelligence (AI) is now, and IoT, smart cities, and automation technology will only flourish, driving the influx of data sky-high and the need for data to be delivered at speed. But a high data rate and reduced latency is exactly what 5G was built for. In a truly symbiotic fashion, AI would help to extract valuable data while 5G would be the medium that connects a multitude of end points across the world, and big data analytics will play a big role in the 5G movement by supporting business applications and operations.
For example, security and healthcare are areas that require real-time analytics – 5G is what would allow data to travel from one end point to another seamlessly so information can be delivered and received efficiently.
Telcos would then be able to support the potential scale of connectivity between a wide variety of devices, from sensors to television sets to mobile phones. With a high bandwidth and low latency, this creates the ability to turn the massive amount of data gathered from connected devices into valuable real-time insights.
For instance, by analyzing network traffic in real time, telcos will be able to allocate network resources more efficiently, predict service lapses and proactively address issues – all of which will result in the delivery of exceptional customer experience. Predictive maintenance will also help telcos gain insights on ‘soft errors’ that might potentially be missed by network engineers. An instance of this could be when a consumer calls the same number a few times within the span of a minute. Engineers might perceive it as successful calls, but it could also possibly be a network failure which caused the first few calls to garbled. With real-time data and analytics, lapses like this can be detected early and perhaps prevented.
To support incoming surges of data with speed and efficiency, telcos will be able to use 5G at a higher throughput as compared with 4G. Companies are already catching on to this with Nokia recently investing in enterprise-class database VoltDB to support its delivery of new IoT and Machine Type Communications (MTC).
Becoming the backbone of smart cities
Armed with a fast data strategy, telcos now have the opportunity to position themselves as the backbone of digital enterprises and smart cities.
According to IDC, Asia Pacific will spend US$583 billion on IoT by 2019 as businesses and cities accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Telcos can play a part here by helping enterprises and cities effectively manage IoT devices, as well as providing the most appropriate type of connectivity based on the needs of the connected devices.
Korean service provider SK Telecom has been riding the AI wave for a while, and is already going to expand the application of Tango (T advanced next generation operational support system) to accommodate mobile network.
Machine learning automates the network operation against network traffic information that is categorized by area and time. The system is also designed to enhance the accuracy of network management by measuring the quality of network operations delivered to customers and incorporates virtualization capabilities to help mobile operators adopt new network capabilities including IoT and 5G. This allows them to excel at not only being able to scale their networks proficiently but also at providing the best possible customer service to consumers.
Recent innovations in technology have paved the way for telcos to become one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, at a projected US$454 billion by 2025.
As more companies invest in 5G worldwide, we are at the very cusp of the future.
By tapping into the treasure chest of opportunities that is 5G, telcos can break the technology space by providing the fastest and most advanced services possible with a highly scalable and agile data system to support its every need.